Monday, April 20, 2009

Sun Spots

Did Larry Ellison just pay $7.4 billion dollars for Java? Is that what it comes to? The purchase of Sun, big news in the Bay Area but not a lead story elsewhere, is an interesting one. The Chron's headline, "Larry Elison, the Sun King," is worthy of The New York Post. Ellison isn't seen as near the villain that Bill Gates is, even though he's nearly as (or perhaps more) rich, is a much more colorful character, and his Oracle Corp. is just as rapacious as Gates' Microsoft was in the 90s. In Charlie's Angels, most people caught on that Sam Rockwell's nerdish disguise was inspired by Gates, but few caught on that Tim Curry was doing a spot-on Larry Ellison spoof, right down to Ellison's love of all things Japanese. I guess it was a California/computer nerd inside joke.

Ellison espouses that old 80s saw that all business is war, and that the greatest warriors are samurai (which kind of made sense in the 80s, fueled as it was by our anxiety and fears that Japan might be buying up our country). He tries either to crush his opposition or to conquer them through acquisition. When IBM's bid for Sun faltered, Oracle, which has been buying up corporations right and left in this downturn, flush with cash as they are and not in bad business shape themselves, charged in and took it away. They topped the IBM bid by a staggering ten cents a share. Now they own one of the great Silicon Valley icons, probably the finest server manufacturer in the world and, more importantly, the inventor of Java.

It's Java that is the big deal. Ellison acknowledged as much when he said that Java was the most significant software acquisition Oracle had ever made. Sun's server market is shaky at best and in these times downright miserable. Yes, there were some areas where Sun and Oracle went together, software products Oracle had developed specifically to run on Sun platform,s that sort of thing. But hardware is not and never has bee Oracle's business. Will they be able to keep Sun's core business afloat? Will they care? Will they let it falter or, perhaps, split it off from Java and the other valuable Sun assets, and then sell it to IBM at a premium? In other words, did Larry Ellison just pay $7.4 Billion Dollars for Java?


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